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Rice Pudding

She had not advanced many yards from Mrs Goddard’s door, when she was met by Mr Elton himself, evidently coming towards it, and as they walked on slowly together in conversation about the invalid…they were overtaken by Mr John Knightley returning from the daily visit to Donwell, with his two eldest boys, whose healthy, glowing faces shewed all the benefit of a country run, and seemed to ensure a quick despatch of the roast mutton and rice pudding they were hastening home for.
Emma

It is not by accident that Jane Austen mentions the little Knightleys hastening home to Hartfield in anticipation of Rice Pudding. Indeed, it is one dish Mr. Woodhouse would have been sure to have approved of for his grandchildren. Throughout history rice pudding has been recommended for the young, the old, and people of all ages with stomach ailments.*

According to Alan Davidson (Oxford Companion to Food, 1999) Rice pudding is the descendant of earlier rice pottages, which date back to the time of the Romans, who however used such a dish only as a medicine to settle upset stomaches. There were medieval rice pottages made of rice boiled until soft, then mixed with almond milk or cow’s milk, or both, sweetened, and sometimes coloured. Rice was an expensive import, and these were luxury Lenten dishes for the rich. Recipes for baked rice puddings began to appear in the early 17th century. Often they were rather complicated…Nutmeg survives in modern recipes. It is now unusual to add eggs or fat, and rice pudding has tended to become a severely plain nursery dish. Nevertheless, it has its devotees.

Rice first made its way West by way of India. While used as a thickening agent rather than ingredient in most recipes, Cooks eventually came to see its potential beyond that of medicinal use or starch. Writers at The Food Timeline offer that “Rice pudding was a popular dish during Shakespeare’s time. The Bard himself alludes to it’s making at a celebratory feast in A Winter’s Tale. Food historians generally agree the first puddings made by ancient cooks produced foods similar to sausages. Medieval puddings (black and white) were still mostly meat-based. 17th century English puddings were either savory (meat-based) or sweet (flour, nuts & sugar) and were typically boiled in special pudding bags. The “pease porridge” most of us know from the old nursery rhyme was most likely a simple boiled pudding of pease meal. By the latter half 18th century traditional English puddings no longer included meat. 19th century puddings were still boiled but the finished product was more like cake. These puddings are still traditionally served at Christmas time.”

In 1803, Susannah Carter offered this recipe for Rice Pudding in her cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook; wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands is explained in upwards of five hundred approved receipts, in gravies, sauces, roasting [etc.] . . . also the making of English wines. To which is added an appendix, containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking. This title is updated from her earlier work, simply entitled The Frugal Housewife and printed in 1765. An American Edition was printed in 1772 on plates created by silversmith, Paul Revere. In 1829, American author Lydia Maria Child published a book with the same title. After a run in over Copyright infringement, Child’s Publisher was required to change it’s title in 1832 to the now famous, American Frugal Housewife.

Photograph by Michaela Kobyakov
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed and drained well
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a 3-quart covered saucepan. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove and then place, covered, in the preheated oven.
  3. Bake without disturbing or stirring for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The pudding will almost caramelize and become a pale golden color.5 servings

* The Food Timeline

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